Broward County EOC addresses criticism over its response to COVID-19

PLANTATION, FLA. (WSVN) - For the past two weeks, there have been concerns and criticism from South Florida’s first responders about the Broward County Emergency Operations Center’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The EOC manager spoke with 7News Thursday, saying that they’re doing everything they can to tackle the virus.

“I would say that any criticism probably is a result of not fully understanding the conditions that we are in,” said Broward County Emergency Manager Tracy Jackson.

Jackson is defending the emergency operations center after receiving criticism that his department is not doing enough during the COVID-19 crisis.

When asked about how he thinks that the EOC could improve based on the concerns and criticism his department received from first responders, medical organizations and local leaders, he replied, “In terms of the response that we’re doing, I think every industry is figuring out what they could do better. I have likened it to the staff as flying a plane while you are still building it.”

The Broward EOC has been at the center of a controversy that started when a letter was sent to the commission by first responders and medical professionals saying, in part, “We are making this direct appeal to alert you that staffing at the Broward County EOC is not in line with staffing in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. As one of the counties most impacted by this pandemic, this is unacceptable. We are hearing from all levels of the emergency care and hospital facilities that this staffing shortfall has been severely hindering our county, cities, hospitals and other essential services to stay ahead of this threat …”

“The county is the one who should be coordinating those efforts, and that is not happening at the county level,” said Scott Bayne with the Broward County Council of Professional Fire Fighters.

Several South Florida mayors have also expressed concern that the EOC is not ordering and delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) in an organized way and fast enough.

“You are creating burnout in the cities,” said Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan. “We are all doing the same functions against each other, rather than having it centralized, and we’re wasting resources, our own precious resources.”

Jackson did not allow us into the EOC, as a precaution, he said, to keep workers from getting sick, but he said there are 15 employees working almost around the clock to get masks, gloves and other items.

“We’re trying to activate as many people as we can to get that stuff out as fast as we possibly can,” he said. “The staff here and the resource request processing at Broward EOC are exactly what is needed.”

When asked if he had any regrets about the way the EOC has been handling the COVID-19 pandemic, Jackson replied, “No. I wish we knew more. I wish there was a better playbook for where we are.”

Jackson said the EOC is staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and despite concerns from first responders, there is someone working 24 hours a day to process requests for PPE.

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